In a time of rapid climate change and species extinction, what role have the world’s religions played in ameliorating—or causing—the crisis we now face? One can point to Christianity’s otherworldly theologies, which privilege our spiritual aspirations over our natural origins, as bearing a disproportionate burden for creating humankind’s exploitative attitudes toward nature.
And yet, buried deep within the Christian tradition are startling portrayals of God as the beaked and feathered Holy Spirit—the “animal God” of historic Christian witness. Through biblical readings, historical theology, continental philosophy, and personal stories of sacred nature, this book recovers the Christian God as a creaturely, avian being promiscuously incarnated within all things.
This beautifully and accessibly written book shows that “Christian animism” is not a contradiction in terms but Christianity’s natural habitat. Challenging traditional Christianity’s self-definition as an otherworldly religion, Wallace paves the way for a new Earth-loving spirituality grounded in the ancient image of an animal God who signals the presence of spirit in everything, human and more-than-human alike.
Seldom do I read a book with such verve and audacity as When God Was a Bird. Mark Wallace has given us a treasure, almost in the form of a parable, because if God is manifest in a bird—the Holy Spirit as dove—where else might God be found? And what might that radical, even creation-wide incarnation of God mean for us today? Highly recommended.', Brian D. McLaren, author of The Great Spiritual Migration 'This book brings forth a luminous animism for all to see, previously hidden in the scriptures and traditions of Christianity yet embedded in the body of the Earth itself. We are all indebted to Mark Wallace, who has given us a masterpiece of ecotheology rendered in the most elegant and accessible poetic language. A gift for years to come!', Mary Evelyn Tucker, Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology 'Mark Wallace argues that ‘Christian animism’ is not a contradiction in terms. In doing so, he opens new lines of exploration and insight that have the potential to spark fundamental changes in the ways animists and Christians think of each other and themselves. An important contribution.', Norman Wirzba, Duke Divinity School
Mark I. Wallace is Professor of Religion and Environmental Studies at Swarthmore College and core faculty for the U.S. State Department’s Institutes on Religious Pluralism at Temple University. His books include Green Christianity: Five Ways to a Sustainable Future (Fortress, 2010) and Finding God in the Singing River: Christianity, Spirit, Nature (Fortress, 2005).